What accent should you bring your child up to have?

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My partner and I are very similar people but there’s one thing where we’ll never agree – vowel sounds. She’s from Bristol, you see, and I’m from London – well, the suburbs of London really. So there are some words that we’re never going to say the same way.

Take “castle” as an example. Do you say “carsull”, as I would, or “cassull”, as she does? I suppose it doesn’t matter. At least, it never used to matter. Until… until we made a tiny human being who was learning words quickly. At nearly 20 months old, she’s learned dozens. Hundreds, really. And they’re starting to stick. She knows them already. In the “orthographic store”, as we teachers call it, or “brain” as sensible people do.

And here’s the crunch. What should we teach her. I ended up moving halfway across the country, for reasons of love and romance, so I suppose it’s me who should give way. Our daughter, after all, is going to be growing up a Bristolian. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t say “bath” with the short vowel sound; I’m instinctively programmed to go for the “barth” that I know and love.

Does it matter? AIBU? Should I care if our daughter calls it a “slider” rather than a “slide” (like normal people)? Should it matter that she says “Where’s that to?” instead of “Where’s that?” or “Yer tiz” instead of “here it is”?

What have you done if you’ve moved to another city, or another country, or brought up a child somewhere that you haven’t grown up? Have you just gone with the flow and decided to accept the inevitable? Have you let them decide how to say words? Or have you tried to cling on to your own accent for as long as possible? 

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7 Comments

  1. I’m English (from Lincolnshire), my wife’s Irish (from County Monaghan) but we live just outside Edinburgh with our 2 kids.

    Remarkably, so far neither of them have taken on a Scottish accent. They sound as English as I do, although they seem to have taken on the “carsull” pronunciation rather than “cassull” as I would say it.

    We’ve not made any effort to steer them towards saying things in a particular way. It’s interesting that just going with the flow has resulted in them sounding English.

    One thing we’re trying to avoid though is them using “chute” instead of “slide” like normal people. “Chutes” bring to mind factories, not a childrens’ playground. And of course there’s the use of “bucket” instead of “bin” around these here parts. Did Jack and Jill take a rubbish bin to fetch a pail of water?

  2. Zoe Richards on

    I am from Milton Keynes and my husband is Welsh, we both live in Nottingham now where the short vowel is favoured. My husband only ever speaks Welsh to our 3 children so that left me to teach them English, hence why my children all have a ‘barth’! I have noticed since they started school that they are picking up more and more of the Nottinghamshire accent and dialect; I sometimes find myself correcting them when they say things a certain way, which I know I shouldn’t really, but force of habit prevails!

  3. My wife is South African, I am English, and we live in England. Our main difference at the moment is the pronunciation of Yogurt. They pronounce it with a long O, like the Americans, whereas we pronounce it with a short O.

    I have come to accept that we each speak in our own way and our son will pick up whichever pronunciation he will.

  4. I’m a Yorkshireman and my wife is from Hereford. Both of our accents ebb and flow depending on whether we are back home or not. Our kids have Hampshire accents as that’s where they are growing up, but with the odd dialect item here and there to mix things up. My daughter sounds downright northern when she says things like “gravy” and “bath” but sounds like the locals with everything else she says. Ditto my lad, who has the “I’m hungry I am” line down to a tee!

  5. I’m American, and my husband is British (from greater London/Kingston area). We’re currently living in Berkshire. We’re letting our 4 year old develop her own accent. I don’t modify how I speak, and neither does my husband. I think my daughter is picking up a mixture of accents depending on what the word is (I always find it amusing when she corrects my husband for singing zed instead of zee). I’ve been told she has an American accent for a few words, and she uses an Indian word to refer to one of her friend’s father. It seems that she’s going to develop the accent that works for her, and that’s how it should be.
    On a related note, my husband spent 3 years in Japan (I met him in his second year), primarily hanging out with Americans. It did have an effect on his accent. The funniest thing was that he started pronouncing Peter with an American accent. Drove his brother Peter up the wall.

  6. Im from Hertfordshire, my wife’s German, we live in Dorset, and we’re just about to adopt two small children from a completely different part of the country. The one child who’s already talking has a strong accent from where they’re from. We all will have different accents, and none of us have the local accent. But it doesn’t really matter. Our kids’ accents will find their own place over time, and I’m not convinced there’s much you can do to stop that really. We lived in America for a year when I was a kid, and both my brother and I picked up an American twang, which slowly faded when we came back to the UK. There’s no right or wrong accent. What you want is for your children’s speech to be articulate and clear. Nothing else matters.

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